Sex, Power, and Value

Over the last couple years, I’ve become quite the feminist.

I don’t hate men or burn bras, but the reality of injustice and oppression toward women is something I can no longer ignore. In America, it can be easy to ignore because we think ourselves to be so progressive and justify the sexualization and objectification of women to be freedom of expression.

In Nepal, it’s not so easy to ignore.

When girls are born, families weep. Young girls are told that they are worthless and cause a burden on the poor family. Families willingly sell their daughters to traffickers in remote villages, or even sacrifice and kill their daughters to avoid the cost of a dowry.

Men and their sex organs are worshipped. One temple glorifies statues of male genitalia as idols. Once married, a Hindu woman must worship her husband. Every night, she washes his feet and then drinks the dirty water as an act of worship. She has no rights apart from her husband.

The men begin to believe that sex makes them powerful. The women begin to believe that the have no value and exist only for the pleasure of man. Their souls waste away little by little as this lie of worthlessness and powerlessness grows stronger.

This month, I had the privilege of working with a man of God who gives me hope for the men of Nepal. He was raised Hindu and was arranged to marry a Hindu girl. After marriage, they followed their culture and she worshipped him, like a proper Hindu wife. She washed his feet, drank the water, and lived to serve him. This was all they knew and all they had seen; it was normal.

At 30 years old, this man who was now a Hindu priest heard about the gospel of Jesus. He decided that Jesus was the only true God and became a Christian. His wife did not believe so quickly.

After a year of her husband following Jesus, this man’s wife decided that she wanted to know Jesus also. And the reason was because the man she once worshipped now bent down and washed her feet. The man she lived to serve now valued her and loved her with the love of God. It wrecked her. Together they have raised sons who also love and respect women because they have seen their value as God values them.

This issue of value is not only one person, one gender, one country’s problem. It is everyone’s concern. It is about knowing the truth of our value as human beings and the respect to treat each person (no matter the color, the race, the sin, the lifestyle, the gender, the theology) as an image of their Creator.

The truth is that each and every person’s value was made known on the cross when Jesus chose to die for the unlovable, unreachable, selfish, poor, rich, rejected, stubborn and all else in between. He did not only die for those who would believe him or accept him. His sacrifice was to God so that all could be welcomed into his presence – the Father was desperate for his children.

We are worthy because he said we were worth dying for.

Men and women. Equally we need God. Equally we have been called worthy.

It’s time for us to refuse to believe the obvious and the subtle lies. It’s time to open our eyes, reject apathy/ignorance/indifference and stand up to pray and fight for justice for all women.

Amen.

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Let me clarify…

I feel the need to clarify some things regarding my New Year’s resolution.  In case you didn’t hear about it, I took a challenge to go on a date every month of the year in order to meet new people.

Here’s 5 things that I’d like to be clear about:

1. Initiating a conversation and meeting new people IS NOT PURSUING.  

2. I do not intend to lower my standards just because I’m going on dates.

3. I don’t plan on settling for less than I know I deserve.  I know that I’m worthy.

4. I am not dissatisfied or discontent with the love of God. He will always be my first love.

5. I pray everyday that God would be at the center of it all…for real I’m not trying to control it.

I think that too often we assume that God wants us to be passive observers who wait for him to put everything in our lap.  I just don’t think he’s like that at all!  It’s good to wait on God but we also have a part to play, action to take and decisions to make…he’s not going to do it all. If you think that God makes all of your decisions for you, where’s the freedom in that? (Not to mention, all those bad decisions you’ve made…probably wasn’t God, right?) Relationships are no different than any other decision you make in life and by going on a few dates, I am in no way removing God from the equation, I am just partnering with him.

Also, the whole point of this resolution is to stop living in fear.  How many times do we overanalyze and freeze in our tracks because of fear?  TOO OFTEN.  I wonder if we use the excuse of ‘waiting on God’ to stay buried in our fear of action. I’m done with that…I’d rather risk and fail than be crippled by fear.

It’s amazing how we are either offended or inspired by a call to action.  Especially a call to action for us women, because you know we are just supposed to stay quiet, at home, knitting on the couch hoping that a big strong man will do everything for us. Lord, have mercy.

I’m sorry but I just don’t buy it.

I hope I made myself clear and that those who might make assumptions or judgments would learn a little bit more about me.  I also hope that more people take risks this year and do things they’ve never done before!  Fear no longer has a voice here!

i don’t wanna pray

My time in Ireland started with one of the best experiences of my life.  A crazy, sweaty, crowded concert filled with Irish, English, Americans and many more. My favorite band that played was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.  They played one of their songs that has become the theme of this entire trip.  I encourage you to read not through the lens of religion and what has been taught in contemporary christianity but through the lens of pure friendship & relationship.

An excerpt from “I don’t wanna pray” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

Not much good to talk, better to walk it
Not much good to take, better to give
We are gone forgiven and forgotten of our sins
I promise you my friend all that dies will live again
Pardon god and mom, what I’m sayin’ isn’t rare
See I’m looking to become, not the pray-er but the prayer
And now I don’t want to pray
I don’t wanna pray

As we traveled from Dublin to Northern Ireland, onto Cork, Galway and Kilkenny…we didn’t fold our hands, close our eyes and pray.  But we embodied the prayer.  We didn’t sit quietly and repeat a bunch of words to make us sound spiritual.  We just walked and breathed and listened. We are operating in such freedom stemming from our friendship with God that we just remained with him.  We don’t enter in and out of friendship as we gather to pray.  But we live. Religion has made us believe that we must do something to be in his presence and to be spiritual.  It has taught us that we need to practice and exercise and muster up enough faith in order to serve God and receive his friendship.

But I’m finding more and more evidence of him being “faithful, even when I am faithless…for he cannot deny himself.”

And so I don’t want to become a pray-er.  Someone who prays but doesn’t know the god i’m praying to.  I want to become the prayer.  I want to become the cry.  I want to become the very breathe and life  and joy of my god.

Ireland has been a fresh wind for me.  The kind of wind that clears out the debris and exposes the foundation. Sitting on the edge of 700 feet cliffs under clear blue skies, I said to Diane, “it’s times like this that I wonder if we’re already in heaven.”

cliffs

I don’t go to Church

Yep.  I am a missionary and I don’t go to church.

I have lived in Georgia, the heart of the Bible belt for about 2 years now, with no luck in this area. And I have tried again and again to find a church that I feel like is made up of real, broken, desperate lovers of Jesus.

But it’s a lot harder than I thought…

As I sat in church on Easter Sunday, I thought…”this is why I don’t go to church.”

I want to be careful about how I talk on this subject.  Because I love the church, and I so badly want to be a part of a group of people just living out the gospel (outside of where I work).

I don’t want to go to a concert.  I don’t want to have to wear sunglasses because of the multi-colored spotlights. I’d rather not choke on the smoke that fills the stage. I don’t want to watch We Bought a Zoo (oh yea, that happened). I don’t want to sing a verse, then a chorus, maybe a bridge, and then stop. And if I am going to fall asleep, my bed is much more comfortable than those padded church chairs.

I just want to sing a song of how much I love God, from the depths of my soul. And I just want to be real.  I absolutely do not expect perfection.  I would just really like genuineness. I’m sure people intend well and have good hearts, but that doesn’t change the emptiness that pervades the room.

I’m craving authenticity.  And the supernatural…I mean this is GOD, we’re talking about! And it’s frustrating to look again and again for a church that actually looks like Jesus…a man fully submitted to the Father and filled with the Spirit of God, yet find slim to none.

I love structure to an extent and I value order. But I wonder what it would be like for a group of people to gather together with no other expectation or agenda but to meet with the living God that we claim to follow. Does that really look like 3-4 songs, 30 minutes of preaching, a closing song and the offering? He’s got to be more creative than that!

If I can find that, I will start going to church.

I’ve been offended

Tonight I received terrible news.

A pastor and his family experienced an overwhelming tragedy this weekend. To honor the family, I won’t go into detail. But I knew the family, somewhat. I babysat for them. I was a part of their church for a few years in middle school and high school. Their kids were in my youth group.

I am completely heart-broken and overcome with grief.

It’s not often that I think back to my church youth group experience. But tonight I did. And more sorrow filled my already heavy soul. I’m not bitter in any way, but the reality of my youth group was cliques, popularity, and judgment. We all did it. If you were slightly weird or awkward or different, you weren’t accepted. Unless of course you could make people laugh (with you or at you).

 

I’m tired of apologizing for and justifying that lifestyle. I’m tired of looking away and ignoring the hypocrisy of the Christian church, the hypocrisy that we raise our children and our youth in, and then wonder why this generation is so ‘unchurched’. Thank GOD they’re unchurched (to the common standard of ‘church’ these days), because they are more honest and real with themselves than ever before, walking in more integrity than most of the Christians.

 

It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever that this was a place teaching about JESUS: a man of sorrows, a friend of sinners, rejected and despised. A building full of mouths proclaiming the name of JESUS: the very definition of love and the creator of life; and yet more death was spoken than life, more division than unity, more bigotry than reconciliation, forgiveness and love.

By this, I’ve been offended. Offended by injustice and religion.

My soul cries out for justice. My heart longs for the REAL JESUS.

I learned more about loyalty and respect from my lesbian co-worker in high school. I learned more about acceptance from the hippies in college. I learned more about love and forgiveness from the orphans in Cambodia, who were devastated by hate and war. I learned more about redemption from the young girls in Thailand who are forced into prostitution by their family. I learned more about a father’s passionate heart from the street kids in Honduras who are addicted and unwanted. I learned more about Jesus, a man with no home, from the homeless in Little 5 Points, Atlanta.

 

Faces and names ran through my mind tonight. Faces of people who came to a church youth group to find love. Names of people who desperately needed approval and affection. Sons and daughters of God, searching for identity and purpose. Today I don’t know where most of them are. I don’t know if I was nice to them, or if I treated them with disgust or contempt. This shouldn’t be.

God, forgive me of my pride, my judgment, my arrogance, and my self-absorption. May the church rise up to be the loving bride who helps the poor and sympathizes with the broken. May all the fear be driven out by pure love. May we know and be confident in who we are as beloved children of a good father. Amen.

Jesus Candle…evil?

Someone just told me that my ‘Sagrado Corazon de Jesus’ candle on my desk was pagan because of the picture of Jesus, which supposedly represents some pagan/demonic thing.

I didn’t get it.  I always thought Jesus was just pointing because he was giving some great wisdom or something, not because of some pagan explanation that I don’t understand.

OK, this is me getting on my soapbox:  I don’t care about the stupid devil.

I believe that it is beneficial and essential to be aware of spiritual warfare.  But really, what do we need to know?  I know that the devil sucks and that he is a liar.  Absolutely no truth comes from him.  But most importantly, I know that we have a GOD who is bigger, FULL of truth.  In whom, all good and perfect things are found.  Not to mention, our God has already defeated and conquered our enemies.

I used to be all about knowing all there is to know about spiritual warfare so that I could be wise and not be deceived.  You know, make sure that I didn’t have a dreamcatcher over my bed and that all the Kachina dolls in my parent’s southwestern home were anointed with oil.

If I would have known about this Dollar Store Jesus candle back then, I probably would have thrown it out and make sure everyone knew it was evil!  I know, it sounds ridiculous, but I’m somewhat zealous.

I have to give myself grace to where I have been at in my process. 

But when I thought like this,what ended up happening was that I gave more attention and more glory to my enemy, then to the one who delivers me and crushes this enemy under my feet.

Now, I’ve decided that I couldn’t care less about the devil.  His goal is to invoke fear, and to exalt himself.  I’m not going to do him any more favors.

And so I am not so worried about having a picture hanging up that might have been used in pagan rituals.  I’m not concerned with people talking about karma or energy or other types of spirituality.

Too often we take other religions and beliefs, and for whatever reason we become afraid.             […afraid of not being in control, afraid of not being right, afraid of being tormented by evil…]

Then we demonize the people practicing these things.  And this causes us to forget that in fact they are human beings.  We turn them into objects of deception rather than sons and daughters who have been led astray.  The truth of the matter is that I am secure in the light.  I don’t have to be afraid of the darkness or those who find themselves in midst of the darkness.  And actually, the light always wins over the darkness.

I am not at all saying that I am not susceptible to lies or that I cannot be deceived.  By no means do I have the strength in myself to overcome darkness.  Every day is a battle.  But I am seated in heavenly places, with authority and inheritance that the darkness cannot touch.  Because the one who lives in unapproachable light and who is greater has brought me into that kingdom of light.  And not only that, but he has called me a child of light.  his child.

I guess my point in all of this is that I am going to turn my focus to the only one worth my attention.  To the one who has written and finished my faith.  Not to the evil symbol on my Sagrado Corazon de Jesus candle.  It’s not worth my energy.  I’d rather think about, dwell on and praise God for his goodness and sovereignty.  And I’d rather love and value people for who they are and not for where they find themselves within spirituality.

And if they ever find themselves trapped, confused, tormented…I know someone who delivers.  And I know someone who sets people free by the power of truth.  I know a LIGHT that can expel the darkness that seems to be too difficult to bear.

But for now, I am going to love.

Candy, Cupcakes, and Justin Bieber

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY EVERYONE!

First I would like to show you the Valentine I received this morning…

Yep, that is Justin Bieber.

Unlike most single females, I actually really enjoy Valentine’s Day.  Of course it would be way better if I had a hot date and got the butterflies and all that mushy stuff.  But until then, I can enjoy spreading love and candy.  I also got a delicious cupcake this morning, compliments of Adventures in Missions.  And I ate it, in the morning…which has caused quite a lack of focus and a potential sugar coma but it was worth it.

Now I don’t usually post about relationships and my opinions on the matter, because I can be somewhat opinionated.  But I figured in the season of love, why not?

I had a thought last night as I talked with one of my best friends.  And it was late and I was really tired, so I just know it had to be a divine thought.  And I think there is something to it, especially for you, men.

THERE IS A WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY.

Men, it is pretty likely that there are a good amount of amazing, wonderful, beautiful women in your life.  And it is also pretty likely that you may have thought about some of them romantically and others who you truly see as sisters.  For most of these women in your life, there has been a window of opportunity for you to ask them out and they would have said yes.  But something stopped you.  Either you were afraid of rejection, or you didn’t want to ruin the friendship.  Maybe you just didn’t see her as someone to date but someone to satisfy your emotional needs.  Oops…did that cut too deep?  Sorry.

But the point is, sometimes you miss the window.  Do you know what that means?  It means that you finally notice one of these women but she has already given up hope of anything ever happening with you.  It’s like the phrase, “You snooze, you lose!”  Sometimes it is possible to get back into the window of opportunity, but not likely.  Don’t be confused though, some windows are much smaller while other windows can be bigger.

But the bigger the window is, the harder it is to get back into it if you miss the opportunity. 

You know that proverb that says, hope deferred makes the heart sick?  I think that’s why women don’t keep that window open too long.  Because the longer her hope was deferred, the more sickness her heart endured.

So, if you like her- ask her out!  It doesn’t mean you’re getting married.  It doesn’t mean you’re in love.  You are simply saying, “I like you.”

Because you could miss your window of opportunity.

Ok, I will step off of my soapbox.  And I will also say that I hope you all have a lovely Valentine’s Day.  I also hope that you all have hot dates.  Please let me know how you celebrate today!

I will be at home, eating leftovers and packing. Happy DAY!